What makes a great film? Many people would say that it is the quality of the direction that makes a film stand-out from the crowd. Hence the enduring success of the films of Orson Welles, for example. Add a strong story, first-class acting and brilliant cinematography, and a film will likely be on many people’s list of contenders for the best films ever made.
There is no definitive list of all-time greats, but there are a number which keep coming out high in polls of critics, directors and ordinary cinema-goers.
The experts’ choices
Although it was not a box-office hit when first released in 1941, Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane has regularly topped the film professionals’ polls. Every ten years the British film magazine “Sight and Sound” asks people working in film around the world to vote for their greatest film of all time. Citizen Kane has won the vote every time since 1962. It was a technically ambitious film for its time, using unusual camera angles and unconventional lighting. It also had the charismatic figure of Welles involved in three ways – as director, collaborator on the screenplay and starring actor.
Finding agreement on the great films
Critics and directors (as polled by “Sight and Sound”) tend to more or less agree about great films. The top ten for both include Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo and French film -maker Jean Renoir’s 1939 tragi-comedy La Règle du Jeu. Directors have also put David Lean’s 1962 desert epic Lawrence of Arabia high on their lists, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove. There is no equivalent poll of the cinema-going public, but if box-office success and Oscar nominations are taken into account, The Godfather from 1972 comes out as possibly the greatest film of all time. Something about the way this story documented part of the recent history of the USA has clearly given it an iconic status in the world of film.
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